Captain’s Log: HallowCon 2017

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I will say right now that I thoroughly enjoyed my first attendance of HallowCon, and I will definitely add this convention to the list of those I regularly attend.

JoeDog McKeel’s first chairing of this con was a success despite all the last minute obstacles which popped up (mostly in the form of passive aggressive resistance from the hotel). Needless to say, HallowCon will be in a different location next year, as unwelcome as the convention and con-goers were made to feel.

I did not have a room at the hotel, being local and able to go home every night; so I will not go into detail on the complaints I heard from those who did book rooms. I will, however mention observations I made about the common areas.

First off, the lack of working electrical outlets along the hallway used for Author’s Alley was aggravating. These were working the day before the con started but not at all during the entire weekend. Thankfully, a working outlet was discovered in the breakfast area at the end of the hall, and a charging station could be set up for members and guests to keep their devices operational.

Some might say, “Who needs to be on their phone/tablet/laptop during a convention?” Please keep in mind, those of us there to sell our works/products often use our devices in tandem with card reading apps to allow us to make credit sales as well as cash sales.

The one other thing I found troubling about the venue was the lack of a handicap accessible bathroom stall in the restroom just off the lobby for common area use. How is that legal and up to code?

All that aside, the con was a blast and a much needed break from Mundania. Being a Halloween convention, there was no lack of cosplay and costuming. (The difference between those terms is whether a costume represents a specific character/creature or just a generic style of costume.) I made a few new friends and reconnected with some old ones.

There were also a few missed opportunities I wish I had taken.

Across the hallway and just a little catty-corner from my table spot was the author/media guest, Santiago Cirilo (Julio from season 4 of The Walking Dead). I never really tried to introduce myself or get to know him. I know I may come across as bold and outgoing sometimes, but I can find my introverted side taking dominance when faced with someone with genuine celebrity. I also allowed myself to be intimidated by his energy and exuberance. Still, what I observed of him leads me to believe he is a genuinely nice person. I hope he will forgive my shyness.

The Charity Auction this year benefitted the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. JoeDog and Donna McKeel chose this charity in honor of their granddaughter, who suffers from this condition. Joe added an additional 10% of the total funds raised by the auction to the donation. At the last report I heard, $1000 was raised just in the auction. I donated a full set of books.

As for the Con Suite, I must say this was the best food I’ve ever had at a convention.

My sales weren’t great, but they were better than at some conventions I attended earlier this year. I had a total of one customer, but she bought a full set of the series.

This marked my second time to attend a showing of the Rocky Horror Picture Show, and the first time to see one with a shadow cast acting out the movie along with it. Quite the experience, I must say.

Yes, I did the Time Warp again.

This audience was a bit more raucous than the one I previously viewed it with at Chattacon a couple of years ago.

As expected, a large number of guests and con-goers departed early on Sunday. Some came from as far away as Mississippi to attend this con and had to be back to work Monday morning.

I’m looking forward to next year.

I’d like to give a quick shout out to Edwin Morgan. He was promoting/recruiting for the Catoosa County 2017 Film Festival which will be in Ringgold, GA December 1-3. I wish I could attend, but I’ve exhausted all my paid time off for this year. Hopefully, I’ll have some to spare for next year. Also, it was some of his brood who kept raiding the candy and pirate swag (plastic coins, Mardi Gras beads, and glass pebbles) I placed out as freebies. I received several thank you hugs from one of his daughters.027

Don’t let the cute mini-Harley outfit fool ya; she’s a pirate at heart.

If you want to see more pics from the con, I have them up on FB here.

 

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I promise I will post a full report on HallowCon by this coming weekend. 11 hour work shifts and other concerns have had to take priority.

Also, for financial reasons, I will probably NOT be attending ConNooga in 2018. I WILL be at Chattacon; I already have a table reserved in the Dealer Hall. I just don’t think I’m going to be in a position to afford doing two cons that close together next year.

Captain’s Log: LibertyCon XXX

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Well maties, another LibertyCon has come and gone. Once again, this has proven my favorite convention (and best selling, too). Even though my first panel, Whats’ New in Pirate Fantasy? (with Michael H. Hanson and Rocky Perry) was at ONE on Friday (a time when many cons are still a few hours away from even starting) it had a decent turn-out (10 or so, not bad for early Friday afternoon).

While my book sales were not as good as last year’s, they were still better than the other cons I’ve done this year. I sold nine books, and at least one of every title available. Three of my sales were to repeat customers either completing or at least continuing their collection of the series. The Maelstrom of Fate signed copy pre-order sale was a bust, however. I promise to work on figuring out how to run it through Paypal and re-opening it in September online.

My scheduled reading didn’t pan out. Late events on a Sunday are always lightly or unattended as many con-goers check out from the hotel and depart for home early. I had no attendees, not even the other author scheduled to share the time slot. Still, I managed to get in a brief impromptu reading at the Kaffeeklatsch Sunday morning. I was joking with one of my table mates about the lack of rum at the breakfast (I was in my pirate garb, of course), then mentioned one of my characters (Jon-Jon) who would complain about being entirely too sober. This led to reading a short excerpt from Blood Curse (book 1) with a scene between him and Viktor which was well received.

Some of the panels I attended but didn’t sit on were How to Approach a Publisher; Practical Linguistics in the Development of Voice; Indie Publishing Workshop; and the Mad Scientists Roundtable. While there were a few space related panels, we didn’t get the Space Update this year. Les Johnson was away in Italy at a Space Conference. Rob Hampson (aka Speaker to Lab Animals, formerly aka Tedd Roberts) hosted the Roundtable.

How to Approach a Publisher: This panel was run by Gray Rinehart, Gary Poole aka Kelly Lockhart, Dan Hollifield, and Michael H. Hanson. STICK TO SUBMISSION GUIDELINES! Be nice and keep it professional. Tell a GOOD story and WRITE WELL (you know, properly spelled used correctly with correct punctuation). Network! This is what lit cons are for: get to know the pros you meet; have conversation with them; ask questions/advice; DO NOT HAND THEM A MANUSCRIPT AT A CON (see first point)! If you handle this correctly, they will be familiar with your name and it might help move you PROPERLY SUBMITTED manuscript to the top of the pile. Be willing to accept critical review.

Practical Linguistics in the Development of Voice was a workshop run by Kevin Hearne, this year’s Literary Guest of Honor. I wish it could have been a two hour workshop instead of one, I still haven’t finished my writing exercise. I guess flash fiction just isn’t my forte. (My brain goes much faster than my hands, which makes it tricky to keep up.) Still, I found this workshop very useful and plan to hang onto my notes from it. I may do a separate blog post just on this at a later date. It’s a lot to cover. Suffice to say for now that Those People who say, “Voice can’t be taught; you either have it or you don’t,” are WRONG.

The Indie Publishing Workshop was supposed to have been run by Peter Grant and Dorothy Klapp, but they were double booked for the time slot. (A panel in another room got cancelled and everything in that room was bumped up an hour, hence the unintentional double booking.) Therefore, Jim Curtis, Tom Rogneby, and John Van Stry (none of whom were listed as attending pros but ARE indie/self published authors) stood in for them. This was another event which will require its own blog post to cover everything, but they covered everything from pre-publication to marketing for those who wish to go the indie/self-pub route. Even audiobooks were mentioned.

Speaking of, I got the same referral from two different authors/publishers who dabble in audiobook editions of their books: ACX.com. “Artistic Creative Exchange” is Amazon/Audibel’s self-pub arm and something I plan to look into for Waves of Darkness. I hold the audio rights to my books, and I’ve had at least five people in the past month ask me if I have them available on audio. I’ve been wanting to take Viktor to audio for several years now, but always thought it was something I couldn’t afford. What I learned at this con tells me the time is right to finally take that leap.

The Mad Scientists Roundtable, a LibertyCon tradition, covered several interesting topics this year. We started with the Kepler project, which has discovered aver 2300 exo-planets thus far. This led to discussion of the TESS mission to try to find Earth-like planets and life-markers. The Tennessee Valley Interstellar Workshop was mentioned along with questions such as should we be looking? and how far out should we try to go? It was agreed that even though we may not have the tech to REACH an exo-planet, finding one which meets the life-sustainability criteria would give us the impetus to DEVELOP the tech. The question was also raised on whether we should focus on trying to reach Mars or to shoot for one of the moons of Jupiter or Saturn, such as Enceladus (which has water). This was debated without a general consensus; in fact aiming for some of the larger asteroids was mentioned as yet another option. Of course, any such mission would require more study of the long-term effects of radiation exposure and micro-gravity on human life and longevity.

The next subject was quantum computing. Someone wondered if it was the “next cold fusion” in that they keep promising it but never quite delivering. Questions raised were: what will we use it for; is it the next step to true artificial intelligence; and can we make it commercially viable? It seemed generally agreed that this was totally unknown and some scary $#!t.

Of course, this discussion led to the news Elon Musk has launched a company called Neuro-Link seeking to find ways to create a brain/computer interface. Currently, this ONLY exists in science fiction, although experimental medical electronic implants exist to treat certain brain disorders/injuries (with varying success; and they aren’t computer linked). The possibilities of using this tech once it finally manifests to reprogram one’s body to self-correct medical issues came up. The questions discussed were: would you want a biomedical implant; and when should we allow people to elect to have one as opposed to it being a medical necessity? Many agreed this should not go forward until there is some way to protect against hackers. Still, many saw a commercial potential for such implants (especially among gamers who could use one to improve and augment reaction times). One this was certain: this kind of tech will raise all sorts of ethics questions along the way, especially with the potential for abuse (read: mind control). Also the question came up of could you be forced to have one, say by the government or even your employer?

The Roundtable ended with the question of when will we have fusion.

As was pointed out by one wag, we already have a fusion generator… 92,955,807 miles away.

I realize I’m jumping about, chronologically speaking, in this report. I also wanted to share this recording of Gray Rinehart performing the filk song he specifically wrote for LibertyCon last year when he was MC.

Then, it was a tribute to fandom and the late David Bowie; now, it is a tribute to LibertyCon’s longevity and last year at the  Chattanooga Choo Choo. Exactly when and where the next LibertyCon will be depends on what sort of contract Brandy Spraker and the board of directors can work out with another venue.

Once this is settled and the information available, you can bet I will be buying my membership for next year.

Also, look forward to an expanded cosplay/costuming track at LibertyCon. I’ll post more on that as the info becomes available.

Captain’s Log: Con Nooga X

I’ll start by saying that, although I didn’t attend many panels nor serve on any, I did enjoy Con Nooga X. I spent the majority of my time in the Exhibitor Hall at my table. I’m glad to say the organizers did place tables along the outer walls this year. Last year nothing was placed along the wall on the last row, and many con goers didn’t realize there WERE tables on that row to browse and shop at. I will have to remember next year to request electricity for my table so I can power my laptop or recharge my phone (which I use for my card reader). I also plan to watch the website for when preregistration opens in order to (hopefully) get a more central table instead of one on the last row.

My book sales were poor. I only sold two copies of Blood Curse, not enough to cover the price I paid for my table. Seeing and hearing how book sales were at other author tables (we weren’t all on one row this year, but scattered about the room), I’m not sure if this was due to my prices (something I have very limited control over/ I am NOT self-published), the genre mix of my books, or my sales pitch. I’m thinking it was mostly due to the genre mix. Sometimes you just don’t get the right audience.

I did encounter several who seemed to like the idea behind the stories, but only two with the funds and the willingness to purchase copies. Several showed interest in the ebook versions, but I won’t know if the interest will result in any online sales until I get the royalty report for the first quarter from my publisher.

I also have gotten good feedback, both at the convention from a current reader who didn’t have the funds to get the next book in their journey through the series yet, and from a coworker who’s recently embarked on the same journey. This feedback came at a most needed time, since the poor sales at this convention and the previous convention dealt a blow to my confidence as an author.

If you follow an author and enjoy their work, PLEASE TELL THEM. It will help guarantee they continue to provide you with the stories you enjoy.

Back to the convention: the costume hunt this year was very successful. I think I took over 200 photos during the three days of the con. You can see them here, even if you don’t use FB.

I also took this little video of the cutest little Jedi I’ve ever seen.

I only attended a few panels, as I stated earlier. One was with Martin Klebba who played Marty in the first three Pirates of the Caribbean movies. He talked about his work not only on the Pirates movies but as a stunt man, how he got into acting, and his dream of becoming a police officer if/when they ever do away with the height restriction.

I attended the Dark Princess Theatre panel/show in which Lady Gwendolyne (Hope Holloway) explained how she, as an undead professional Black Widow, goes about selecting her next vict… er husband, and the order and speed with which to marry and dispose of him once he meets her standards (rich, landed, no close relatives to get nosy). During the show, her first prospective victim from the audience left once he realized this was NOT a burlesque show, and she would not be getting naked.

Hope and her husband, John, also act as guides for the Chattanooga Ghost Tours.

Another panel I attended was “This One Time at a Con.” This one got pretty raunchy, not visually mind you, but in the stories related. One of the panelists became known as “The Man Who Kicked Jayne” for drunkenly kicking Adam Baldwin in the nuts after getting snubbed by the actor in favor of a couple of hotties when seeking an autograph. There were also stories of sex, both with celebrities and in semi-public places; BDSM in the hallway at a con run by some rather conservative organizers; room party stories such as one of the panelists commonly known as “the Dude” encountering a naked chick with a supersoaker filled with booze at a party, leading to a drunken black out and coming to ad-libbing ala MST3K some crappy TV show next to Seth Green; encountering Dr. Rocksoff, a local entertainer at one time, back at Con Nooga 6, in full clown makeup but naked from the neck down just as he jumped into the pool… the outdoor pool… in FEBRUARY; and another story about the Dude when he had a bowling bag dispenser filled with White Russian. Before the panel could even get under weigh, however, we had to relocated to another room. We were too loud for the drag queen panel in the next conference room. About midway through the panel, we were invaded by clowns.

This was the first Con Nooga in a few years where I didn’t attend any of the room parties personally. It turned cold Saturday night, and I didn’t have a very warm version of my pirate garb on.

The one event I wanted to attend but missed was Friday night’s Radio Cult concert. The event preceding it did not clear the stage on time. In fact, they ran at least 45 minutes over or more. (I know this because that’s how long I waited before I gave up and went home. Had to make sure I got enough rest before coming back out the next morning to man my table.)

I will be back at Con Nooga next year.

Captain’s Log: Chattacon 42 and Other News

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Despite only selling one copy of Blood Curse at the convention (to my tablemate J.L. Mulvihill), I had a great time at Chattacon. I made some new friends and said hello to some old ones I hadn’t seen in person since last year. The weather was unnaturally balmy for January, but crowds were almost as small as they’d been two years previously when the temps were in the single digits (also unnatural weather for this area). I think this was largely due to the lack of available hotel rooms at the Choo Choo.

Slowly but surely, the facility is shifting away from being a hotel. Already one of the three hotel buildings has been converted to apartments, and a second is in the process of being converted. This left only one hotel building and the rail cars for hotel space. What this means for future conventions which use the Choo Choo is uncertain.

Another factor which hurt was the passing of one of the largest, and longest attending vendors Friday morning before the start of the convention.

Since I only had a signing and two panels, I spent most of the convention in the dealer room. I forgot to get over to the art show, something I usually manage to do; but I did attend Jen’s reading. She has a delightfully twisted imagination, I must say. I also attended the LibertyCon room party, the Molly Maguires concert, and most of the Vamp Valley Vixens burlesque show.

They did a silly game show, The Giant Wheel of Whatever!, during intermission and gave away prizes. Winners got nifty donated prizes ranging from anime toys to a pair of Hypericon tickets. Losers got their choice of white chocolate or milk chocolate dick pops with real nuts in the nuts. (Those were exactly what they sound like.)

The theme of the convention this year was The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, yet a very large portion of the cosplay was Steampunk. It varies year to year. One year saw several pirates at the convention.

I’d like to congratulate Brandon Garrison for winning the dubious honor of being red-shirted in Maelstrom of Fate. (The link is for the Youtube video of the drawing.) There are still two spots open and six current entrants in the running. If you’d like your name added to the hat, just comment here, Facebook, or Plurk.

I also picked up three new books from Stephanie Osborn: Division One: Alpha and Omega (her new SF series), Fear in the French Quarter: Displaced Detective #6 (I LOVE this Sherlock Holmes series), and Science Fiction by Scientists anthology.

I will be back in the dealer room at next year’s Chattacon.

In other news: I will be an author guest at Hallowcon this year the last weekend of October. This convention is under new management determined to revitalize the convention, and has been moved from Dalton, Georgia to East Ridge, Tennessee. Joe Dog plans to have at least 20 hours of programming. The theme will be The Late Night Double Feature Picture Show (you know the one). Last year’s theme was Vampirates. Really wish I could’ve made that one.

Anywho, I will be starting on my first round of revisions on Maelstrom of Fate very soon, so I can get it in to my publisher. I hope to get the book out IN October this year. I’d like to launch it at Hallowcon.

Captain’s Log: LibertyCon 29

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“Let’s Bitch at Brandy” Closing ceremonies and feedback session

First, my deepest apologies for the tardiness of this blog post. MULTIPLE errands and distractions to deal with when I got home from LibertyCon 29.

I really needed this past weekend. BEST. CON. EVAR! Seriously! I saw old friends and met online friends in person for the first time. Welcome to the family! You know who you are! I saw the best book sales at a con I’ve had since ConNooga two years ago when I sold 8 books. My total for this con was 13 books sold! I sold out of my copies of Blood Curse. I almost made a profit on this convention. (It’s local and I go home every night instead of getting a hotel room, so that cost doesn’t figure in. Hotel and food expenses are the main reasons authors almost NEVER make a profit at a convention.)

I would like to extend a warm and heartfelt thank you to the concom and volunteers who make sure everything runs as smoothly as possible. My biggest complaint about LibertyCon has always been not being able to go to all the panels I’d like to. This is because there is so MUCH to do and only three days of programming for Rich and Tish Groller to cram them into. This is a good problem. LibertyCon has NEVER been boring. I did miss out on learning what the LC exclusive pre-release news was from Steve Jackson Games. Steve’s panel was scheduled at the same time I’d blocked off to eat; being a type 2 diabetic, food and meds took precedence.

I scored an adorable piece of art from the art show by Jim Humble titled “Dread Pirate Kitties.” I still can’t believe no one else placed a bid on it. Almost every other piece in his cubby had at least two bids. I also picked up Stephanie Osborn’s latest book from ProSe Press, Sherlock Holmes and the Mummy’s Curse. It is the start of a prequel series about her version of Sherlock Holmes from her Displaced Detective series published through Twilight Times Books.

The “Convention War stories” panel, aka “One Time at a Con” gave much entertainment and a few things I want to Google: things like “LarryCon” in conjunction with “Texas Fandom” (I’m not familiar with the reference, having never been to cons west of the Mississippi); and WorldCon/NolaCon aka “The Con WorldCon Forgot.” Apparently the convention committee quit shortly before the convention, and the fans had to take over everything. That one also coincided with the Southern Baptist Convention meeting in New Orleans the same weekend. I’ll leave the rest to your imagination.

There was no shortage of pros present. Liberty has one of the highest pro-to-fan ratios among sci-fi conventions. It was the second LC in a row to sell out. Attendance including staff and pros is permanently capped at 750 people. Brandy Spraker, the convention chair, is carrying on her father’s tradition of keeping the convention intimate and of the highest quality. I am grateful to be a part of the LC family since 2010.

Next year will REALLY be a busy one. LibertyCon turns 30! I lost track of how many times I heard jokes about “LibertyCon XXX” over the weekend. Online registration opened Sunday.

One of my favorite panels every year is the “Space Update” hosted by Les Johnson. It used to be called the NASA update, but so many private companies are involved in space exploration now the former name is outdated. I will post a separate report on this panel at a later date. A lot was covered at the panel, and it deserves it’s own post.

Friday night saw a truly nasty wind/thunder storm. Luckily, staff was able to secure the party tents for the overflow room party space. They took the poles out and laid the tent tarps flat. Otherwise, the tents would have been shredded or blown off property. Yes, the storm was that violent.

Atlanta Radio Theatre Company (ARTC) put on a wonderful production of All Hallows’ Moon by the late Thomas E. Fuller, founder of ARTC, as well as an episode of Rory Rammer: Space Marshal; “Rory Rammer and the Case of the Mummified Martian.” I had to miss the end of the production because of a schedule conflict: I had a 10 pm Authors’ Alley slot. ARTC is currently editing a production/adaption of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island. I intend to monitor their FB page for the release date on that. These guys have been doing audio/radio plays since the mid-1980s. They are VERY good at what they do.

Another nifty thing about LibertyCon is you will often see GoHs and other attending pros working staff/volunteer spots. Todd McCaffrey is well known for his crepes in the ConSuite. If you attend Liberty often enough, you WILL get drawn into helping with the programming beyond just sitting/moderating panels. Tish asked me if I’d help out with the children’s costume contest next year. Personally, I believe there’s nothing like getting involved with some of the behind-the-scenes functions to give you a better appreciation for all the hard work and love that goes into make this convention such a fantastic one.

At the Let’s Bitch at Brandy (formerly Let’s Bitch at Uncle Timmy) closing ceremonies and feedback panel, it was announced that 21 attendees donated blood and 3 donated red blood cells to Blood Assurance, the charity auction raised approximately $8200USD (the final count is not in yet), and the Baen Barflies raised $366.24USD in their ConSuite tip jar. LibertyCon is and always has been a charity organization. Staff are not paid nor comped their membership. Only Guests of Honor get free membership. All staff, convention committee members, and other attending pros pay for their memberships. Any money raised above the costs of the venue/equipment/hospitality(food and drink for the consuite) go directly to the charity chosen for that year. This year’s charity was Lana’s Love Foundation which provides diversionary therapy (FUN) for children with cancer and their families.

The guest lineup was also announced for LibertyCon 30:

30 year GoH  John Ringo

Literary GoH Kevin Hearn

Artist GoH Sam deSantos

Science GoH Eliza Quintana

30 year Special GoH Toni Weisskopf

Special GoH Todd McCaffrey

Special GoH Faith Hunter

It promises to be another sold out show. I strongly suggest you get your membership now.

LibertyCon 30 will take place at the Historic Chattanooga Choo Choo the weekend of June 30 – July 2, 2017.

I hope to see you there!